On FKTs

The Fastest Known Time concept has gained some popularity recently. I’ve been an enthusiastic participant for many years setting a few FKTs of my own, some of which have since been eclipsed and others remain as of this writing.  As the sport grows and FKTs become more competitive I’d like to share some of my thoughts on FKTs. I likely haven’t made my last serious attempt at an FKT, but it may come as a surprise that achieving maximum speed in wild and rugged places has never been my priority and likely won’t become my style moving forward. My mentality has always been to enjoy the scenery as much as possible and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For me this means I’m achieving times that are substantially slower than if I were actually racing, and this trade off is fine with me. The volume of experiences I’ve had in rugged and wild places in the mountains far surpasses the temporary satisfaction I get from setting a fast time. In virtually all cases I’ve eschewed focusing on the granular details of splits and time goals, and instead focused on things like where is the most dramatic angle or when and where will the best light be for photography. Aside from one FKT, I’ve always carried a camera and used it liberally. Anybody who follows my adventures understands that photography is a huge part of my enjoyment in the mountains and good photography takes time. For example, on the High Sierra Trail and Rae Lakes Loop FKTs I took hundreds of photos. If I wanted to go much faster I would start be leaving my camera at home. However, when it comes to making that decision, I’ve always chosen to spend my time adventuring to new places with my camera and spending the time to take good (in my biased opinion) photos.  In other words, I would rather spend my time designing new routes than follow in somebody else’s footsteps. “Beating” a time, whether it be my own or somebody else’s, has never really been a great motivator for me and it’s something I spend less and less time thinking about the more I’m inspired by visiting places that are off the beaten path.  Make no mistake, moving fast in the mountains is an essential part of my style. It enables me to experience as much wild and rugged scenery as possible. However, the journey itself is my award and if I were to pass through each adventure with my head down only seeking a time at the end, the visceral experience between me and nature would be lost. Turning wilderness routes into hyper competitive exploits runs counter to most of the reasons why I go to the mountains in the first place. If I were into beating other people for the sake of athletic competition, it seems the appropriate place is always going to be an organized race competing against peers in an environment where the variables for each participant are the same. I’ve raced extensively in the past but in recent years I’ve chosen to pursue the adventures with all of my free time (when I’m not working full time as an attorney). It took me awhile to discover that my competitive fire does not match my fire to explore and adventure to remote and wild places. They likely never matched, but once I understood this about myself, the races started to feel predictable and domesticated. After taking time to prepare for a race I needed to get back to the wilderness to experience the kind of personal inspiration that racing could not provide. For me, battling brush, creek walking and scrambling up peaks, all of which contain little actual running, are not ideal preparation for a trail or ultra race, but it’s what I wanted to do. To perform to my capabilities I knew that I needed to train specifically by running on trails. However, this type of preparation for a race and the race itself started to feel like a sacrifice when my heart wanted to be out exploring remote and wild corners. If I wanted to travel, it wouldn’t be to a new race venue, but instead to a new corner of the Sierra or the Ventana. Eventually the realization was that I should do what makes me most happy with my free time, which in my case is exploring and adventuring in the mountains. 

My journey continues and I’m sure it will evolve and manifest in different ways which is exciting. For instance, I’ve taken great enjoyment in a recent project to explore and catalog the hidden waterfalls of Big Sur. In many ways this project is an ideal expression of my desire to explore as many of these falls are undiscovered or have not been visited by humans in decades. Everybody has different reasons for racing or attempting FKTs and I’m not judging anybody’s reasons or decisions, only sharing my own personal perspective and what motivates me to get out into the mountains. If I were to give any advice, it would be to care less about the affirmation of others and what they think you should be doing and instead follow where your heart leads you.    

Panoramas!

Since the Facebook albums linked to in my previous post are essentially useless for viewing panoramas (because they come out so tiny you can’t see anything), here are some panoramas from last week. Click on the image to see a larger version. My favorite photos from each location are forthcoming in future posts and I might be able to put together a video slideshow with short clips if I find some time in the next couple weeks.

Stump Beach Cove, Salt Point State Park

View near Dad O'Rourke's Bench, Mount Tamalpais State Park

Mount Tamalpais sunet, Windy Hill, and Sanborn Park panoramas after the jump!

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Sunset

On my run at Pescadero County Park I noticed that a layer of clouds had formed over the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains but it was still sunny out near the Ocean. I knew there would be potential for some great evening light as the sun set underneath the layer of low clouds. Fortunately, my hope and predictions came true as I drove up Alpine Road. I stopped to take these photographs near Alpine Road in Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve and also at Vista Point/Borel Hill.

Gorgeous layers

Gorgeous layers

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Catching up on sleep!

It has been nine days since I returned form Colorado and the TransRockies run with an interesting recovery. 113 intense miles over six days was a weekly mileage PR by about 25 miles so I knew I would be dealing with some fatigue. However, the source of even greater lethargy was the lack of sleep compounded over an entire week in Colorado. Over the course of seven nights in Colorado, I slept no more than 35 hours total (5 hours per night) and that is being generous. Here are some reasons why a peaceful, fullfilling night of sleep was impossible to achieve:

  • Altitude: Particularly on the first night, I found that it’s not as easy to sleep at 9,000 feet coming straight from sea level
  • Thirst: Very dry air in Colorado made my mouth dry and lips chapped keeping me reaching for the water bottle
  • Zippers: Constant opening and closing of zippers on people’s tents; between 200+ tents somebody, somewhere was getting up to go to the bathroom.
  • Snoring: One night I was situated next to an epic snorer that sounded like he was starting up a chainsaw. I made sure to let him know he had some serious issues the next day and suggested he move his tent far way into the meadows. I ended up moving far away from him.
  • Semi Trucks: The grand finale was the Ford Park camp in Vail which was no more than 100 meters away from Interstate 70 where semis blasted through at 70 mph at all hours of the night.
  • Humping (?): I also heard that some people’s sleep was interfered by “intimate” noises, but fortunately I was not subject to this. I would have heckled and shouted this couple down if I had heard it. By that point I had lost patience with riff raff going on at night.

As you can see, sleep was a luxery I simply did not enjoy on the TransRockies. Somehow I pushed through the sleep deprivation (I might have been a bit cranky) on the trip, but it caught up with me when I returned to CA and for many days I had a general feeling of tiredness. I was hoping to get out to the high Sierra on this holiday weekend, but couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for a long mountain run, let alone the drive to get there. The lack of sleep, combined with the expected fatigue from the high volume, has led to a mixed bag of training. On some days I simply feel like crap, and on other days I feel great. I’m hoping the big week of running in Colorado will pay dividends soon. I’m also excited to do some adventure runs in the high Sierra in late September, hopefully coinciding with the famous fall colors.

There are tons of deer all over the San Carlos hills and all the places I run at in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here is a phot of a large buck right next to my place. He was sitting in the shade directly underneath my dining room window and I noticed the antlers. I shot this photo as he was walking away. I’ve also seen numerous fawns on the trail runs.

Big Buck in the San Carlos Hills

Big Buck in the San Carlos Hills

Yosemite Part II

Before heading to bed, I snapped a few photographs of evening light on Half Dome a few steps from the tent. We were awoken in the morning by a bear roaming through camp. The bear meandered and then walked off after finding no food. We saw the value of the bear boxes in keeping the bears wild.  I then went on a 13+ mile run on the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail, running by famous sites like Mirror Lake, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan. After the run, we packed up and did a tour of the meadows followed by a walk of Lower Yosemite Falls. It was a gorgeous morning! See the complete photo album from the trip here.

Yosemite Falls from the swinging bridge

Yosemite Falls from the swinging bridge

Meadows

Reflective Meadows

El Capitan

El Capitan

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Yosemite Part I

Serena and I visited the iconic Yosemite Valley on Memorial Day and camped overnight at the Lower Pines campground. We enjoyed a spectacular hike of Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls and toured the sights of the valley. I also ran the 13 mile Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. This was Serena’s first visit to Yosemite Valley and she was amazed at the incredible scenery. I have been to the Valley several times but I am still amazed every time :)  See the complete photo album from the trip here and Part II of the trip.

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

Serena on top of Nevada Falls

Serena on top of Nevada Falls

Half Dome, Mt Broderick, and Liberty Cap

Half Dome, Mt Broderick, and Liberty Cap

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Point Reyes – Headlands

After the trail run through Bear Valley, we drove to the northern portion of Point Reyes National Seashore, which is drastically different from the southern portion. There is no forest and the hills are much smaller. A significant portion of the area near Drakes Bay is a saltwater estuary and marsh. At over 10 miles long, the Pt. Reyes Beach (aka the Great Beach) is an incredible expanse of uninterrupted sand and waves. At the tip of the headlands is the famous Pt. Reyes Lighthouse and the Chimney Rock Area with one of the largest colonies of Northern Elephant Seals resident on the beaches. The headlands area is also home to several historic dairy farm ranches that are still operational to this day. There are literally thousands of happy dairy cows roaming around. Finally the rugged Tomales Point is home to the famous Tule Elk Herd.  This time we explored the Chimney Rock area, the lighthouse, and Pt. Reyes Beach. Next time we will come back to check out Drakes Bay and Tomales Point – there is so much to see.

The Great Beach

The Great Beach

Sunset

Sunset

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